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A colony on Mars will be the 'next giant leap for mankind'

Jamie Rigg , @jmerigg
11.08.14
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Bas Lansdorp, CEO and co-founder of Mars One, is nothing if not ambitious. His dream is the stuff of science fiction -- not only does he want to put humans on Mars in 2025, but he wants to leave them there to establish a self-sufficient settlement. And he plans to fund the enterprise, in part, by televising everything from pre-mission training to daily life on the Red Planet. Or as much as the colonists want us to see, anyway, as they'll ultimately be in control. As you can imagine, he's a pretty interesting guy to talk to, which is why we were psyched to have him on the Engadget Expand stage to articulate his vision, and what he hopes it'll mean for humanity.

Engadget Expand: Life on Mars

Building a human settlement on Mars doesn't just sound challenging, it sounds nigh on unachievable. But, as Lansdorp explains, the technology that would allow the Mars One project to succeed already exists, so it's not as far-fetched a goal as it might initially appear. And, of course, the plan isn't just to blast a rocket in the right direction and hope for the best. The first Mars One probe is due to touch down in 2018, and two years later, a rover is expected to start scouting out potential colony sites. In 2022, life support systems and various essential equipment will be sent to Mars ahead of the first manned mission, scheduled to launch in 2024.

Technically, the concept might be sound, but with so much investment required, why even bother? To Lansdorp, it's simple: "Progress." The reason we're such a successful species, he says, is because we're always pushing the boundaries, and Mars One is just an excuse to indulge our collective need to explore. He also hopes the adventure will do something to unify the world, too, bringing everyone together through "one common goal." Just maybe, sending people to Mars will inspire children to want to be astronauts again, "not popstars," and by televising the journey of the first off-world settlers, we can live it with them. "It's literally the next giant leap for mankind."

The biggest obstacle to Mars One's success is not the technology involved, according to Lansdorp, but finding the right people for the job. After all, it's a one-way ticket, and the team dynamics will have to be perfect to give the colony any chance of thriving. The explorers that will eventually be selected and trained over the course of the next decade will be put through some rigorous tests before being sent into space. Part of that training will involve living in a mock colony, cut off from all support, with problems artificially inserted into the situation -- including what's apparently one of the toughest things to deal with psychologically: A broken and smelly toilet.

[Image credit: Mars One]

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